The Truth About Hard Work – A Conversation Between Naval Ravikant and Kapil Gupta

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Key Takeaways

  • “Hard work has become its own game. It’s like meditation in the way it becomes a competition. So the thing you’re really seeking, becomes replaced by the game of hard work. Hard work, like effort, becomes its own goal.” – Kapil
  • “To the experts, what looks like hard work from the outside, is play from the inside”  – Naval
    • So a good area to focus on is an area that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you – That’s your superpower
  • “I don’t think anybody fails because they didn’t work hard enough” – Kapil
    • Why do people fail then? – Because they didn’t really want it
    • “If you have an unswerving desire to do something, then usually you’ll get it” – Naval

Intro

  • This is a conversation between Naval Ravikant (@naval) and Kapil Gupta (@KapilGuptaMD) about THE TRUTH
  • Check out some of our Podcast Notes with Naval, covering many of his Periscope sessions, as well as our Podcast Notes featuring Kapil

The first question they tackle – How do you know when something is true?

  • “I know something is true, just because it feels true to me” – Naval
    • “You know it when you hear it, even if you don’t like it”
    • Kapil agrees:
      • “Often times when you hear truth, the inner sensation that you get is beyond the intellect, and I think that is a great sign. Often times we’ll feel something that someone says viscerally, as soon as it’s said, and at the very same time, we’ll have a hard time intellectually framing and understanding it” – That’s a very good sign that something is true
  • “Truth is that which has predictive power” – Naval
    • You can use it to predict the future, and the more accurately you can use something to predict the future, the more true it is
  • Real truth often creates an emotional response if it’s aimed at your identity or your ego

Hard Work

  • “I think hard work is important, but I think hard work is an effect of something you know needs to be done” – Naval
    • If you need to work hard to do something that you care about, then you work hard
    • But many people “work hard” for hard work’s sake
  • “Because of all these tools we have available, our judgement matters more than hard work. Sometimes you do need to work hard, so you should never shy away from it, if that’s what it takes to succeed in whatever you want, but I do think it gets overplayed in society.” – Naval
    • After all, we live in an era of almost infinite leverage
      • Someone can write 1 piece of code that makes them millions over time
  • Kapil thinks hard work is largely done out of fear/anxiety 
    • “Hard work has become its own game. It’s like meditation in the way it becomes a competition. So the thing you’re really seeking, becomes replaced by the game of hard work. Hard work, like effort, becomes its own goal.”
    • Hard work is the result of something – Whatever needs to be done, when one has a sufficient degree of desire for something, he will do
    • It’s more along the lines of “I will do whatever needs to be done to get there, and I don’t consider that work” – It isn’t, “If I work hard, then I will get this”
  • “To the experts, what looks like hard work from the outside, is play from the inside” – Naval
    • So a good area to focus on – an area that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you – That’s your superpower
  • Often, hard work alone won’t be enough to succeed 
    • What might matter more? – What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, and how badly you want it
  • Society tends to romanticize effort/hard work
    • Effort becomes the end goal
  • Look at nature – “If you look at gravity, it doesn’t work hard. If you look at a leaf falling from a tree, it doesn’t work hard. If you look at water going down a river, it doesn’t work hard.” – Kapil
  • “I think of work as the set of things you have to do, that you don’t want to do” – Naval
    • If you want to do it, it’s not work
    • Naval has a great analogy – Say you work hard all day at the office, then come home to play video games to unwind. To an alien, the video games look more intense/like work…but to you it’s the furthest thing from work, it’s something you want to do
    • “I don’t think people get burned out from work. I think they get burned out from work they don’t want to do, which is a form of suffering.” – Naval
      • For this reason, it’s really important to align yourself with work where you don’t feel like you’re suffering
      • “In a billion dollar company, the employees aren’t working any harder than people in a million dollar company. They’re just doing the right things.” – Naval
  • “I think a lot of times hard work is done in order to have an excuse for the mind when the mind comes asking, ‘How come you didn’t make it?’ If a person is armed with the ammunition that he has worked hard, then he has an answer for the mind.” – Kapil
    • If a person just sat on the couch, then he wouldn’t have an answer for the mind
    • “There is a truth to the fact that humans tend to do many things to satisfy those who are watching them, and they also tend to do many things in order to satisfy the idea of having tried and romantically failed.” – Kapil
  • “Given the era that we live in, talent matters so much more than hard work.” – Naval
    • This is counter to conventional belief
  • What probably matters much more than the 10,000 hour rule? – The speed of iteration

Failure

  • Kapil breaks failure down:
    • Road blocks along the way and minor setbacks – those are just experimentation, “There is no failure along the way”
    • When you give up for good – that’s failure
  • “I don’t think anybody fails because they didn’t work hard enough” – Kapil
    • Why do people fail? – Because they didn’t really want it
    • If you didn’t do the work necessary, it’s probably because the desire just wasn’t there
      • “If you have an unswerving desire to do something, then usually you’ll get it” – Naval
        • Humans tend to have to many loosely scattered desires – Instead of having 3, focus 100% on 1

Everybody Cannot Be Everyone

  • Naval talks about an interesting theory – “In modern society, one of the reasons we have more unhappy people is because of the myth that everyone can be everything”
    • Everybody cannot be everyone
    • People might be prone to think – “Oh I can be as good as Tiger Woods, but I’m not because I just didn’t work hard enough”
      • But no – the talent aspect is hugely overlooked

Leadership

  • Naval has heard this quote before – “Management is telling people what to do. Leadership is getting them to want to do it themselves.”
    • Real leadership, is more hands off

Some Good Thoughts to Close

  • “I think one of the things that’s utterly broken in the startup ecosystem is that we all know and acknowledge that 10x, 100x, and even 1000x performers exist, especially within certain circumstances and situations, yet we do not compensate them at those levels, because it is socially unacceptable to do so” – Naval
  • “Humans seek truth to some degree, as long as it has conditions. It must fit within the framework already established, or it’s not accepted. The problem isn’t that the truth is wrong, the problem is that there are too many frameworks.” – Kapil
    • “Everyone is walking on eggshells, because so many eggs have been created” 
    • Morality, what’s correct/what’s not, what is fair/what’s not- there are too many frameworks
    • “Quite honestly the jungle in the wild is far more fair and equitable and moral than any fabricated society in this world”
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